Hispanic camp introduces Latinx youth to college experience at UNCG

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- When University of North Carolina at Greensboro administrators studied their student body, they realized one group in particular was lacking needed support.

So, in the summer of 2017, the university launched a program called UNCG CHANCE, which stands for Campamento Hispano Abriendo Nuestro Camino a la Educacion (UNCG Hispanic Camp Opening Our Way to Education).

Manuel Valdez, a rising junior at UNCG, is the oldest of seven children. He’s also the first member of his family to get a higher education.

"It's very emotional sometimes, for the whole Latino community, just because your parents and everyone's given up so much and you kind of reward them through this life,” he said.

Valdez, as a freshman, was able to navigate through his first year of college without the CHANCE program. So well, in fact, that he was approached about being a mentor for the program.

"If I would have gone through a camp like this, this definitely would have helped out a lot,” he said.

Rod Wyatt, senior director for college completion initiatives for UNCG, says they started the program after looking through census and university data, when they noticed there was a gap in reaching out to Latinx communities.

"Based upon that gap, we designed and developed this program specifically for high school students to transition them into college and give them the opportunity to see what college life was like,” he said.

The first year, the camp was three days. Today, it’s grown to a full week.

The camp consists of mock classes, leadership opportunities and engagement in every aspect of college.

"Give students a full exposure to what college is like,” Wyatt said.

With all the academic units involved, students can explore everything from visual and performing arts to science and nanotechnology.

"This is for students across the state of North Carolina. We're right now engaged with 36 counties,” Wyatt said.

High school rising juniors and seniors from California, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Virginia and Spain applied to the program for 2019.

"Everyone's safe, and everyone's having a good time, so we kind of just provided that uplift for everybody throughout that whole camp,” Valdez said.

They plan on welcoming 160 students this year, with the program growing 162 percent in two years.

"Crossing those bridges and overcoming those challenges that a lot of these students face,” Valdez said.

Wyatt adds UNCG’s freshman class saw Hispanic enrollment increase to 15 percent.

"We often compare ourselves really easily when it comes to our experience and our journey,” Valdez said.

This year’s camp runs from July 15 to July 20.

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